This is a dreamy work by Mia Couto, echoing the simple village life in the aftermath of civil war and political unrest. Encompassing it all is the context of a ravaging lion. The lion has been attacking people in the outskirts of a village. This incident reveals the distrust and power play between local communitees and the centrally appointed authorities.
The authorities receive messages of the lion´s havoc, yet they hesitate. Finally, instead of collaborating with the villagers directly they engage a professional lion hunter from Harare. It is he who has to interact with villagers to restore safety. However, this at times seems like a cursed project not open to straight forward solutions.
It becomes clear that the destructive lion reflects something deeper. The villagers talk in a confusing way about several lions, the one more mystical and other worldy than the other. Others still talk about the lion being right in the center of village, not in the bush where one is looking for it. Several characters utter statements about bad memories of the civil war, memories that don´t flee as one chases them. It is as though the legacy of the civil war lives on through nature.
Alongside this confused hunt, the main female narrator Mariamar recounts several bad incidents that happen in the village. Rape and incest occur that question the very foundations of traditional society. In the novel the victims are all women, both from the predator lion and by human hands. This hints to a deeply rooted gender inequality that is especially harmful in times of crisis. The violations display a lingering disharmony showing the perils human of social life. These co-exist with or maybe even reflect the roaming beast or beasts.
The novel is written from a dual perspecive, the main female narrator and the hired hunter. These overlap in a fluent way. The language in this portugese written novel (2012) is poetic and engaging in its english translation (2015). Mia Cauto has written several novels that give insight to the recent history and troubles of Mozambique. He has won international acclaim. In 2015 he was short listed for the Booker Prize.
- Naomi Ndele